‘You cannot run’: Michael Malone’s constant quest to figure it out with the Nuggets

  • ESPN.com NBA writer since 2010
  • Covered Cleveland Cavs for seven years
  • Author of two books

As the bus carrying the melancholy Denver Nuggets rolled down Highway 101 toward San Francisco International Airport on that Tuesday morning in April, Jamal Murray sat in a seat with his left leg propped up, wiping tears from his eyes.

Across the aisle was his head coach, Michael Malone, and an impromptu therapy session began.

The night before, Murray’s left knee had buckled after he’d planted on a drive toward the basket. Malone was at his side on the ground within seconds, waving for help from the medical staff. Later, inside the locker room at Chase Center, Malone was there when the Golden State Warriors team doctors informed him of their diagnosis: torn ACL.

“Jamal was grasping the enormity of the situation and was asking himself all those questions. Will he recover? Will he ever be the same?” Malone says. “What I’ve learned in my years in basketball and what I’ve tried to bring to our team for the last six years is that when you face adversity, you cannot run.”

Malone has become known for a few things during what is now a two-decade-long NBA career. One is for his intensity, whether it is dealing with officials, opponents or even his own team when it’s time to demand accountability. Google “Michael Malone rant” and there are plenty of results from meltdowns about his players’ defense to the NBA’s rules on letting families into the bubble last year to the LeBron James-Michael Jordan debate.

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